Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Jack and Betty Forever

This is a very odd little book. I found it for 50p in a Japanese bookstore in London, with the intention of buying it for the creepy cover. Imagine my delight upon beginning to read and discovering that the indecipherably weird tone not only continued in the text, but reached something so sublimely strange that it would lead me to scan these pages and tell the world about it.

It is written in English, translated from Japanese supposedly, to be read by Japanese people studying English. In the back there is a glossary to explain literary devices such as 'had turned to pudding', 'cowpie' and 'prim and proper'. Probably very useful for the target audience, but in shoehorning as many idioms and colloquialisms as possible into the book, the author seems to have left behind any rational character development, plot, or narrative structure, making for a reading experience that I can only describe as uncomfortably hilarious. There are four short stories in total, but the first is by far the most jarring and interesting. The book's title story, Jack and Betty Forever shows a short meeting between two old friends and how their lives have basically turned to hell and despair since 'the good ol' days'. What follows is a series of uncomfortable conversations and shocking revelations!!


It ends with Jack's dilemma of whether he should invite Betty to have sex with him or not, but in the end thinks better of it, anticipating her response.

He knew she wasn't going to answer, Yes, I want to have sex with you, too.
He smiled forlornly. "It's...it's nothing," he said.

Monday, 1 June 2009


This Sunday I went to a very special preview screening of UP in London, 5 months ahead of its ludicrous October UK release date. Once again, I was entertained, touched and inspired by a Pixar film. Pete Docter has created a film so different to Monsters Inc. but has once again proven his love for simple stories and burrowing heartwrenching sentimentality into them. It felt, despite the big action that actually takes place, rather subdued and whimsical, mirroring the journey of its elderly protagonist, Carl Frederickson and his struggle. Perhaps it was because of this that the film felt more like something you'd expect to see from Miyazaki than Lasseter's Emeryville castle, taking its time in telling a story and reveling in the wonder of a house attatched to thousands of balloons floating through the sky. Its rather adult and profound message about the expirable nature of humans, but not of dreams was a bold thing to do, especially since kids make up a large number of the audience. The fact that they seemed thoroughly entertained and as moved by the story as I or any other adults in the cinema were proves the creative team's pioneering skills in storytelling. While children may not have been so hardly hit by the painful yet poetic tableaux of an infertile couple's meeting with a doctor, they seemed to understand how much Ellie meant to Carl.

As with Wall E however, the film falls into Pixar's attatchment to the three-act story, and there is a great big finale more in tone with the Incredibles than Ratatouille, which UP seems to share its tone with much more. I'm sure the story wouldn't have worked any other way, and Ronnie Del Carmen's talent as an artist and storyteller is certain, yet it did feel ever so slightly victim to one of Pixar's 'story-think-time' sessions and as such feels more manufactured than the main story deserves. Saying that, I have only seen it once and desperately want and need to see it again.

Finally, a quick word or two on two people that for me really made this film what it is. One, I cannot speak too much about because I know absolutely nothing about music, but nevertheless, Michael Giacchino has made my summer, and millions of others I'm sure, yet they might not know it. I've loved his work ever since I first heard the bizzare yet unbelieveably exciting score on Lost, which defined the show as much the mysteries for me and never failed to make a scene a thousand times more tense or touching. His subsequent and equally brilliant scores for the Incredibles, Ratatouille, Mission Impossible III, Speed Racer and even the short credits piece for Cloverfield prove how versataille and talented a composer he is, whilst still keeping his personal touches, such as solo piano, big horns and trumpets. Another reason for my saying the film felt Ghibli at times was that the score reminded me of Joe Hisashi's work, particularly the 'upcoming' film Ponyo ('On the Cliff by the Sea). The tracks 'Flight of Ponyo' and 'Carl goes Up' not only sound similar, but thematically and visually share similarities in the final films. Anyway, rounding it up, the film would be worse off without his score.

And finally I would simply like to thank Lou Romano for the hours of joy i didn't realise he'd been giving me. Since childhood kicks from the amazing style on The Powerpuff Girls, to the Incredibles and now Up, his work mastering colour as a storytelling device is stunning, and I was glad to realise I'd recognised his work as the mural for Paradise Falls in the film. His blog is well worth checking out, especially since the torrent of his work for Up has been uploaded.

The picture here uses the Russian title for the film, which i understand is pronounced something like 'vheer'.

Trey tribute thing

For artfriend and fellow animation/film gabbler, Neil LaLonde, of his frustratingly sexy Black Mango character from his story 'Trey Dangerous'. Watercolour on watercolour paper, found background from design magazine/digital.

Also, woo first post etc. Let's hope I keep updating frequently ey.